Sunday, April 10, 2011

Free the Female Skin...

  I hate walking around in sweat soaked clothes. Maybe its because of growing up in oppressive humidity. I just can't stand the feel of soggy sweaty moisture trapped around my skin.

 Today I was walking in the park. Bob Woodruff/Oak Point, if you're familiar with Plano. Its the kind of park with nature where people go biking and running, not a playground park. I was walking with intent to sweat, in full sun, so I wore shorts and a bikini top. I wore a bikini top for presumably much the same reason that men go running in the same park in tiny shorts without shirts. Because I sweat, its hot, and I'm concerned with little else besides my own course. Plus there's the little bit of vanity that makes me choose the bikini top over the sports bra - the sports bra gives me some weird tan lines.

It totally wasn't like this.

 As I was walking along, I occasionally would pass some other person. Sometimes I could feel them look at me a little hard, but I didn't care. I'm out there to burn some calories and be alone, not to be concerned with them. I encountered about eight people in about an hour of walking, and each of them was "forced" to look at me for about 10 to 30 seconds until they passed me by.

  One of the last people I passed was a man, probably in his 40's, running in a pair of small nylon shorts. I mention him because he is significant, although not through any fault of his own. He didn't offend me in any way, or say anything to me, or even really look at me. He is significant because I know the last group of people I came into contact with had to have passed him to.

  This last group of people consisted of several people, and I really couldn't tell you exactly their demographic or what they were doing, or how many of them there were. My lack of detail on this is because I was minding my own business, not trying to solicit the attention of anyone else or pay attention to anyone else. I was there to use the park. I do know that at least two of them were women, I couldn't really say how old, both blonde, and both wearing tank tops. I know this, because one of them (I don't know which) drew my attention intentionally as she passed me by.

  She said "Put some clothes on!" She said this right in the instant after she passed me by. So, generously speaking, if she was forced to be offended by my presence for 30 seconds, she had 30 seconds in which to make her comment. She made her comment in the 31st second, as if she wanted to make it not when she was face to face with me, but after. I turned around and said in a bored and only slightly annoyed tone of voice "Its not any different than men running with their shirts off."

 I don't think she had intended to give me the opportunity to respond, nor did she expect it. She said "What?" and both her and the other woman turned around, once again leaving me unclear on who had spoken. I repeated: "Its not any different than men running with their shirts off. I sweat too." Then I turned around and continued my course which she had interrupted.

  In that moment of reply though, I had enough time to basically look at them. They were both blonde, artificially so. They were both wearing shorts and tank tops, both of which exposed cleavage. They were not large per se, but larger than me. So not only is there the irony that they can pass a man in mini shorts and nothing else and presumably not cat-call him, but also its not as if they were covered to Victorian standards themselves. So the part of their body that they are willing to display - cleavage - is perfectly unoffensive, but my stomach and lower back is totally over the line? The fact that I have forced you to see my belly button for a few seconds, in passing, in a place where I was exercising, where people are meant to exercise, is rude; but your giving unsolicited instruction to someone you don't know is not?

  I would like to conclude this blog with the statement that I am tired of two things. The first is simpler: I am tired of people making rude remarks that they do not intend to own. If you are so proud of your opinion and righteous in it, don't say it in a calculated moment when you are pretty sure you will have the last word and there's not possibility of a retort. Furthermore, when you make such a remark, prepare not to be dumbfounded if the target of the remark does turn around and answer in a more conversationally civil style than you lead with.

  The second thing I am tired of is people responding witch hunt style to any display of female skin that is one millimeter over their own arbitrary standard of appropriateness. I have defended willing sexiness and I will defend it again and again, but every time a woman wears something which exposes a piece of her flesh, it is not necessarily sexual. If I am doing something physical, yes, I prefer to wear less clothing and be less hot. If i am doing something outside in the sun, yes, I prefer to have the sun touch my skin instead of sweaty fabric. Its not just the idea that any exposure of skin over what "they themselves" (in the proverbial sense) are doing is a blatant troll for sexual attention. Its also the idea that if someone does something that "they themselves" would not do, it is obviously totally incorrect, anti-feminist, offensive, and is in fact corrupting our children. Come on people. We have all seen bikini tops. They aren't required by law to be sold only in places with dark tinted windows that card at the door.

  Even more complexly, its the idea that its ok for the proverbial "them" to beautify themselves and try to make themselves attractive as they see fit. "They" can dye their hair, wear makeup, dress to present what they see as an attractive part of their body with cleavage and shoulders on display. But if "they" see someone who has, to their eyes, made a bid for attractiveness in a different way - exposed a different part of the body, or worn something that "they" would not, "they" feel entitled to be offended by it. It causes me even more of an eye roll when they think I'm presenting for attractiveness when I'm actually just trying to be more comfortable while I work my ass out. I'm not trying to join the Top Free movement. I'm just willing to fight for both my right to be comfortable in the park in the same way that apparently even 70 year old dudes in stretchy shorts have the right to be comfortable in the park.. and I'm also willing to stand up to anyone who tries to tell me what the standard is when I am probably more qualified to decide the standard myself.

   I see people doing things and wearing things that my eyes find offensive every day. I don't feel entitled to instruct them on it.

See? Its not so bad.